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Spike Lee Will Direct Film Version of ‘David Byrne’s American Utopia’

Lee will helm a screen version of the acclaimed Byrne-led stage show, to be lensed by Ellen Kuras.

David Byrne and the company of American Utopia'American Utopia' play, Broadway Opening Night, New York - 20 Oct 2019

David Byrne and the company of “American Utopia”

Broadway World/Shutterstock

Spike Lee has announced his next project will be a film version of the Broadway stage show “David Byrne’s American Utopia.” The news was originally reported by Deadline. The cross-genre stage show helmed by the Talking Heads frontman opened October 2019 and runs through February 16 at the Hudson Theatre in New York. This film version is slated for a 2020 release. The film will be executive-produced and financed by Participant, with RadicalMedia and Byrne’s Todomundo and Lee’s Forty Acres and a Mule Filmworks also producing. Famed cinematographer Ellen Kuras (“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”) will shoot it.

“Pinch me,” David Byrne said in a statement shared with Deadline. “This couldn’t have worked out better for this project. Spike Lee directing and Participant producing — two socially engaged teams, well, three if you count us in the band, coming together in what I feel will be something moving, important, and unlike anything anyone has seen before.”

The stage show enacts songs from David Byrne’s 2018 album of the same name, along with other songs from the Talking Heads’ iconic catalogue and from Byrne’s own solo career. It’s choreographed by Annie-B Parson, with lighting design by Rob Sinclair and sound design by Pete Keppler. Karl Mansfield and Mauro Refosco are musical directors, and all have been acclaimed for their contributions.

“’American Utopia’ is a true celebration from a great artist and a beautiful reminder to our nation that we are all born barefoot and wearing the same suit. We are incredibly excited to work with Mr. Byrne and the incomparable Spike Lee, along with RadicalMedia, River Road and Warner Music Group in bringing this one-of-a-kind event out of the theater to audiences around the world,” said Participant CEO David Linde.

“’Stop Making Sense’ is one of the greatest music performance films ever. To have the opportunity to revisit the genius of David Byrne with ‘American Utopia’ and produce a bookend film with Spike Lee and Ellen Kuras is a dream,” said RadicalMedia CEO Jon Kamen, in reference to some of David Byrne and Talking Heads’ most classic work.

Spike Lee is otherwise currently in post-production on “Da 5 Bloods,” and also soon will be at the 2020 Cannes Film Festival heading up the jury. Most recently his film “BlacKkKlansman” earned six Academy Award nominations including Best Picture, and Lee won for Best Adapted Screenplay.

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